Persecuted Christian Left for Dead in Iran
By Randy Rudder
The 700 Club
CBN.com - Russ Ardebili grew up in pre-revolutionary Iran. His parents were moderate Muslims, but as a child, Russ was often skeptical about Islam. “My dad tried to teach me,” Russ says, “but I always had little doubts in my mind.”
He attended a school with several Armenian Christians and became more curious about Christianity. “In the Muslim religion, the Koran talks about Christ, how Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary, and that’s what made me interested in Christ,” he adds.
During Russ’s childhood, the Shaw of Iran was in power and Muslims were more tolerant of other faiths. “Before the revolution, Jews, Baha’i’s, Christians, Muslims, all lived beside each other. We never had a problem,” Russ recalls.
Russ went to college in the United States. Then in 1979, his world changed forever when the Shaw was overthrown by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Russ was afraid to return to Iran, and eventually married a woman who attended a Pentecostal church. His marriage fell apart and Russ realized he needed help. One night, he slipped into a church service. “I knew that Christ was calling me. They gave the invitation song, and I was crying,” Russ says. “I went forward and accepted Christ, to become my Savior and so my sins would be forgiven.”
Russ moved back to Iran to care for his sick mother. He married a Muslim woman hoping she would convert to Christianity, and they had a son named Salar. Russ couldn’t stop telling people about Jesus and how God had changed his life. The new radical Muslim government did not like that.
“I was stopped by the Revolutionary Guard, and they blindfolded me, and they took me to this place. They kept me for about three or four days. They didn’t feed me anything. They just gave me some water, and they started beating me,” Russ says. “They beat me about ninety times. I never felt the pain, even though my back was bleeding, and I saw blood dripping on the floor. Any time they beat me, I just called for Christ. I said, ‘Praise the Lord!’ My back was bruised and scarred and bleeding, but I was standing up and smiling at them. And I was telling them ‘God bless you.’ They were just stunned. They couldn’t say anything.”
But this wasn’t the only time they arrested and tortured Russ. “Every time they did this, they thought they were going to teach me a lesson, that they were going to make me come back to be a Muslim, but each time I was harassed or beaten, I became stronger,” he adds.
Russ took a job as a foreman with a mining company where he had another encounter with the guard. “We came out of my office and, probably about seven feet away from my office, there was an old pit. And as we were walking, I was beside them and one of them pushed me down into the pit, and I fell. My leg was broken, shattered. This place was on the edge of the dessert, and used to catch a lot of poisonous snakes, spiders—tarantulas as big as my hand,” Russ recalls. “When I fell in there, I knew there were going to be snakes and spiders all around me crawling. I was passing out, waking up, praying, screaming for help, but nobody heard me.”
Later that night, Russ’s boss came to check on him, and heard him crying for help, and pulled him from the pit. “They called the ambulance and they took me out and I had a ten-hour surgery on my leg, my hip, and I was in the hospital I think about a week.”
Even though Russ was in the snake pit for several hours, he was never bitten. “I was just praying the whole time, and I think that was another miracle of being saved by Christ.”
When Russ was released from the hospital, he escaped to Turkey and eventually sought asylum in the U.S. his wife, however, refused to leave, and they were divorced, but he was reunited with his son Salar in 2007. Today Russ loves sharing Christ with Muslims. “The Muslim religion is not all bad, but if you look at it from the radical point of view, that’s not good,” he says. “Christ can give them peace. Christ can give them freedom, but probably nobody has told them that.”
Russ settled in Kentucky and now works with a local transport company. Salar is now attending college. Russ married Brenda and they are both active in their church.
“I believe Jesus is my whole life,” Russ says. “I find peace in Jesus. I find comfort in Jesus. I find freedom in Jesus. I believe that my sins are forgiven, and I will definitely have eternal life with Christ.”
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